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US Gov: Marijuana Arrests for Federal Funding?


The United States government has been dangling the proverbial carrot in the faces of law enforcement agencies all across America in a ploy to exchange minor marijuana-related arrests for federal funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.


Instead of awarding additional funds to law enforcement agencies that make devastating busts that affect the bottom line of the drug cartels, this program pays police agencies a significant bonus for making minor marijuana arrests -- a discrepancy in the system that has become just as much a problem for rural communities as it is in big cities.


“Although the government claims [byrne grant money] goes toward apprehending high-level traffickers, it’s often very low level people who get arrested. It targets low-income people and people of color much more than anyone understands,” Harry Levine, a drug policy expert and sociologist at Queens College, told AlterNet.


Funds from the Byrne grant program are distributed each fiscal year to law enforcement agencies based on drug arrest and seizure criteria from the previous year. Those standards, which are consistent state-to-state, include: number of offenders arrested, number of offenders prosecuted, number of drug seizures, quantity by weight and drug type, and total value of funds and assets forfeited.


The Marijuana Arrest Research Project recently set out to dissect the Byrne Reports of 20 states, in which they uncovered a ghastly agenda against the stoner nation. It seems that law enforcement’s bullying tactics against the average marijuana user is the most productive group to shakedown, seizing 232,006 ounces of marijuana in the state of Tennessee in 2011.


To make things worse, the report cosigns what most marijuana advocates have been privy to for some time -- marijuana possession is the most profitable “drug” offense across the country. In Arizona, police agencies nailed more people for marijuana possession (42 percent) than for any other drug – methamphetamine (26 percent), cocaine (nine percent). It does not take a genius to see that if police stopped arresting citizens for marijuana, their funding would be severed almost in half.


The report finds that police agencies have been using Byrne funds to pay their force and assist them in fulfilling their equipment wish list, rather than using the money as it is intended -- to finance special narcotics departments. “With Byrne grant money, the police can buy all kinds of stuff -- police cars, bullet proof vests, computers, bullets -- buy whatever they want,” said Levine.


Essentially, local police departments are being rewarded with bonus money to finance salaries and new toys for officers based on the number of non-violent marijuana possession arrests they make each year.


Of course, pressure to maintain this funding has given law enforcement and local municipalities the will to aggressively pursue, arrest and prosecute the average marijuana user. Ultimately, the Byrne grant program is funding foot soldiers fighting the War on Drugs and in doing so, intensifying the battle rather working towards a unified surrender.

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